Re-discovering your passion through volunteering
By Samantha Yammine
At this point in September, the chances are you might be feeling overwhelmed by your syllabi...
All of the readings, assignments, quizzes, plus looming midterms leave a lot of students staring anxiously at the clock and wondering how they’re going to get it all done.
In the first few years of my BSc, this was exactly the time of year when I told my friends I wouldn’t be able to hang out for a while and declined opportunities to join extracurriculars. That seemed like the only option at the time and I was hoping it would help save me some time.
Well, it didn’t… I ended up wasting more time, staying in but not being productive, and feeling bored of staring at the same sheets all day and night. I wasn’t loving my university experience and my grades weren’t as great as they could’ve been, so I decided it was time for a change.
In my senior years as an undergraduate it became apparent to me that a lot of us are taught to manage our time, when really what most of us struggle with is energy and motivation. STEM-related programs include long hours of labs, problem-solving assignments, and lists of equations and jargon to memorize. Sometimes your fatigue is what slows you down the most and you may even start to dread your coursework.
I decided to try something new, completely the opposite of my previous “all work, no play” mantra. I signed up for volunteer opportunities I felt passionate about, which in my case focused on running science events and teaching. By giving myself opportunities to interact with science in a fun way, it helped soften some of the resentment I was feeling for my studies. By talking to younger students, I was reminded of how passionate I was about science as a kid, which was the reminder I needed to push through a long day.
One of the most surprising beneficial outcomes was the network that I built working alongside others who were passionate about sharing science. I met really motivated students who supported my grad school applications and who are now working in a bunch of different fields - from doctors, dentists, program coordinators, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, and even film and TV producers!
If this sounds like the kind of thing you’re looking for right now, check out some of the volunteer opportunities offered by Let’s Talk Science! They’re a Canadian charitable organization that creates and delivers unique learning programs for kids, youth, and educators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As a volunteer, I’ve hosted weekend events where kids can come learn about animals and ecology, organized and facilitated discussions with high school students about the latest breakthroughs and ethics of stem cell research and even created my own mystery and detective event for French-speaking kids at a local library.
The contagious enthusiasm at each of these events has re-invigorated my energy whenever I needed it most, and the flexible schedule has allowed me to still keep my part-time jobs. While, yes, these types of commitments can definitely keep one busy, communicating science in person has helped me maintain a positive outlook on science when failed experiments and deadlines were bringing me down.
But beyond all of these personal benefits, no matter how hard school gets, it is still an absolute privilege to be able to pursue higher education. I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned with those who may not have had access to the same opportunities I have. Science communicators also have the ability to tell science in new ways, so that we can foster a STEM culture that is more inclusive to people with different interests and experiences.
If you want to learn more about volunteer opportunities with Let’s Talk Science, check out highlights at instagram.com/ltscience_ps, twitter.com/letstalkscience, or http://letstalkscience.ca/Support/Volunteer/Ways-to-Volunteer